Year of revenge travel.
So what’s new? Sharon Au reportedly took her first MRT ride in 27 years, some influencer got married while 8 months pregnant while another “famous” influencer with more than 300,000 fans gave birth on Christmas Day. Earlier on, Joanne Peh’s post about “cheaper” (not really) coconuts in Thailand went viral. Somehow people find these things more newsworthy than Chan Joon Yee climbing Mt Agung, horse-trekking in Kyrgyzstan and trekking the mighty Three Passes of Nepal.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again when I look back in wonder. 2022 is a year we and many other countries start coexisting with the virus. Fittingly, it’s a year of “revenge travel”. As most countries eased restrictions on travel, a great number of starved individuals started packing their bags to travel with a vengeance – yours truly included.
Not counting the daytrips to JB, I made four major trips this year. First, was my trip to Kyrgyzstan in June. Then, my NDP climb in Bali up Mt Agung in August, my trip to Central Java with my sons in September and finally, my Three Passes Trek in Nepal in November. How’s that for revenge travel? And with so much travelling, I should have many stories to tell and with so much material, I ought to be able to generate a lot of content, right?
Wrong. Sadly, 2022 has been a very discouraging year for me as a writer. My Google e-books saw the lowest sales ever. Even the free content on my blogs like this one suffered from a lack of views. Traffic which used to be roaring during Covid lockdown died down to a trickle. My dreams of retiring as a digital nomad in Malaysia/Indonesia collapsed like a tower of cards.
Will things ever get back to “normal”? Should I throw in the towel? Truth be told, I’ve thought long and hard about whether I’ve ought to write about Kyrgyzstan. 2 months after my return, I had not written a single word of my trip report. What’s stopping me was not writer’s block, but what’s the point of writing if nobody is going to read?
So why did I finally decide to write anyway? That’s because I’m a writer and I have to write as long as I’m still alive. Even if nobody buys my books or reads my blogs, I have to write. That doesn’t make me a very good businessman, but that’s me and I can probably cut the cost of hosting my blogs if I need to. If it’s no longer cost effective to host my blogs privately, maybe I could just write a digital diary and compile the e-books like Red Dot Rants and put them up on Google. Regardless of whether anybody buys them, they will be available online at no cost to me. It’s a drastic move taking my blogs offline and compiling downloadable e-books, but if writing doesn’t pay for itself, there is a limit to how much I can afford to sponsor.
Before I look ahead to 2023, I think I should look back at 2022 and wonder. The thing that struck and shook me most in 2022 was of course the invasion of Ukraine by the Putin who thinks he’s Peter the Great. 24th February 2022, after the Beijing Olympics. The “coordination” can’t be more obvious here. Taiwan would be next if Ukraine could be overrun in days. A few of my gambling friends had placed heavy bets on the war being over in less than 2 weeks. You may think that a war taking place so far away is none of my business here, but this conflict would turn out to be the most divisive event within my social circle not just in 2022 but probably in my lifetime as well.
To me, there is absolutely no doubt as to who is out of order here. Looking back in wonder, there were more than a few Singaporeans I’ve encountered who believed that the US has no business helping Ukraine and Ukrainians ought to just surrender. For others, support for Russia came indirectly from support of their ancestral country – China which was allowing hate speech against Ukraine to go viral on 抖音. What is it that makes these normally decent people engage in victim-blaming? Do their seriously believe that Putin was eradicating Nazis? Do they not think that if Ukraine falls, Moldova and Georgia will be next? We’ll be back to the days when international borders were fluid and dependent on the outcome of wars. And looking back in even greater wonder, many pro-Russia Malaysian friends and relatives seemed to have forgotten that MH17 was shot down by a Russian missile over Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine. What has gotten into the minds of these people?
I remember that two years ago, the sinophiles were aggressively sharing “evidence” of “Chinese superiority” vis-a-vis the management of this pandemic. Taiwan maybe, but the PRC’s system was admired by quite a number of our locals (and folks across the Causeway). Back in August 2021, Sinovac became available and these folks were celebrating, eager to get a shot of the “best and safest” vaccine in the world.
This study was published in December 2021. Yet as recent as December 2022, there are still folks who think that Sinovac is best. How can I not look back in wonder? Early 2022 also saw many people testing positive for Covid (Omicron) and quite a number of my friends were tested positive. Back then, there was a lot of interest in Lian Hua Qing Wen capsules and I’ve seen boxes of that stuff were virtually flying off the shelves.
From the start of the pandemic, the CCP had pushed their most politically correct academic Zhong Nan Shan into the limelight. 连花清瘟 was first approved in 2004 at the tail end of the SARS epidemic. It was never very well received and Yi Ling’s market performance has been lacklustre until Covid struck and 钟南山 endorsed the product. An astronomical sum of taxpayers’ money must have been spent supplying homes under lockdown with 连花清瘟. Watch how the share price moved with Zhong Nan Shan’s endorsement, the widespread distribution of the product to homes during lockdowns and the recent plunge with cases of toxicity being reported.
Looking back in wonder, there are supposedly well-informed Singaporeans who swear by the product. One guy I met online even said that he trusts Zhong Nan Shan because he is a famous doctor. He doesn’t know anything about Dr Jiang Yanyong (SARS whistleblower under house arrest) and Dr Gao Fu (former head of China’s CDC) who was forced to retire after saying that mRNA vaccines were more effective. A doctor’s first duty is to his patients and not to his party. This simple code of ethics is lost on many people.
Then, just as countries all over the world were opening up, Shanghai went into lockdown in March 2022. At a time when I still had the WeChat app, I saw forums for Chinese “expats” and new citizens here insisting that China’s way of managing Covid (动态清零) was the most economical and effective. Before you can even say 润 (run), other cities in China began to follow. You can see the hardship on social media. A friend in China had pulled out all their house plants to plant vegetables. Many people had to wait for PCR test results before they could see the doctor at the hospitals. Delays had caused much misery and even deaths.
On National Day, our Prime Minister made me go yao mo gao chor ah with his believe in the integration of our immigrants from China. Strangely, the video of his full speech has been taken off. Looking back in wonder, I’m worried that our policymakers have such a naively optimistic outlook with regards to immigration and integration. There was no internet and cable TV during Salman Rushdie’s time. He became British in no time. Nowadays, immigrants remain attached to their motherland in more ways than one. Not surprisingly, many of them never made friends outside their community or understand the local culture. What’s more, the vast community that has gone online can attract local adherents who are supposed to have grown up in a multi-racial society. Such harsh punishment for senior lecturer Tan Boon Lee is just going to make the “defectors” silent and invisible.
As Piers Morgan wrote in his book Wake Up, the world has indeed gone nuts and it’s not just with virtue signalling and political correctness. Looking back in wonder, a country with a heavily censored media is calling Taiwanese who have access to uncensored information 井底蛙. Indeed, sometimes, fake news is more believable than the truth. Until now, many Malaysians I know still wish they have a leader like Xi Jinping.
The result of his 亲自指挥亲自部署? An explosion of cases all over the country with bodies piling up. I know people are forgetful. Exiled former CCTV star journalist Wang Zhi An (Wang Ju) compiled the following video lest we forget and start praising the people who caused the problem in the first place. When there were just a few positive cases, they were ruthlessly pulled into 方舱 with horrific sanitary conditions. Some of the transportation took place in the night and accidents had happened, killing people who were mildly ill or asymptomatic. Pets had been euthanised, babies separated from their mothers. Undocumented numbers of people have died or suffered disablement because of delays in medical attention. The police told the public that American spies had released the virus (an uncle of mine believes that!) because they are jealous of China managing things so well in 2021. According to a friend of mine, community leaders in her district “educated” residents by describing Covid to be as bad as leprosy and AIDS. The result was that folks who had recovered from Covid were treated like HIV positive people.
Fast forward to the White Paper Revolution. Restrictions were suddenly lifted. Any sensible person would ask yao mo gao chor ah? No more mandatory swabs. No more movement restrictions even as the number of cases surged. Experts engaged by the government told the public that it’s just a flu! What happened to all the people and pets who had been sacrificed? Just as in Singapore, nobody questions or dares to question. Where is the positive side of this party dictatorship?
Actually, the dire situation in China is not difficult to predict even at a time when China seemed to be ahead of everyone else in curbing Covid. The fanboys and fangirls were just too blindsided by their faith and admiration and they hated me for doubting their emperor.
Just as in Wuhan almost 3 years ago, there is now a huge coverup. China has not been sharing data or genomic information for the current outbreak with the WHO. Until people from China arrive on our shores and are tested, there is no way of knowing if a variant has emerged. Is the Chinese government still doing things ethically and responsibly? They are also reporting intelligence-insulting small numbers of deaths and rejecting mRNA vaccines from Germany which have been proven to be more effective than theirs. Paxlovid is rumoured to be available in China to some privileged individuals but are sold at astronomical prices on the black market to the commoners who are expected to use 连花清瘟 and show confidence in 4 main areas 四个自信 （中国特色社会主义道路自信、理论自信、制度自信、文化自信).
Looking back and forth in wonder, I’m not surprised if there are still fans of Winnie the Pooh whose faith has not been shaken until this day. I shall discuss a bit more on such mentality in a future blog post.
On a more serious note, are we welcoming arrivals from China without any special precautions? Lowering the gantry on China would risk offending a super proud nation of 1.4 billion and lose their GDP-boosting billionaires. Without those billionaires, the Singaporean dream of selling an HDB flat for $1M will never come true. Are we going to risk our vulnerable (non-GDP determining) folks instead? From the lukewarm response and back up for heroes who dared question the pricing of HDB flats, it is quite obvious that people who want the truth are in the minority. The silent majority want their flat prices to have a good “head start” to attain the million-dollar club. As long as there is money to be made, just close one eye and move on. As the late Jiang Zemin said 闷声发大财.
As we in Singapore wrap up our revenge travel for 2022, some other country is going to 润 (run) its own revenge travel, coming to our shores and some of our folks are going to be extremely welcoming. On the other hand, many countries whose governments dare not tell the people that it’s not their duty to love them, have already put stops or thrown a spanner into the works of such revenge travel cum capital flight. What about us? At the moment, it seems that we are more “friend” with them than North Korea.
So much for looking back. What about looking ahead? What will 2023 hold? Many of my friends do not see a good year ahead regardless of what our “experts” may say. Cost of living is going to tear through our pockets with the increase in GST. Those of us who have compassion towards customers who are in difficulty will end up earning less. It’s not our duty to show compassion but we are better human beings than the more calculative and financially “prudent”.
I have a similarly pessimistic view. It’s time to 割韭菜 and recover the cost of vaccinations and handouts during lockdowns. The only positive thing which is remotely possible, is that more people may wake up to pernicious propaganda as more bad news leak out from the dragon nation and as the pinch of higher GST becomes a punch. The people may finally decide to take the co-driver’s seat and give the driver a knock on the head. Of course, that is just a wish. I’m quite happy to be in the minority.